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1939 Dodge Luxury Liner: a new car for the end of the Depression

by David Zatz

The Dodge Luxury Liner (D-11) celebrated 25th years of Dodge and Dodge Brothers cars. New styling made the headlamps integral with the front fenders; and a two-piece, V-type windshield replaced the single-piece version from 1938, to let designers install 23% more glass. The gear shift lever was moved from the floor to the steering column, and a new "Safety Light" speedometer had a lighted bead that would glow different colors based on the speed.

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The Luxury Liner name must have struck a chord among buyers, because it stayed on for years afterwards - despite being fairly far from the original Dodge Brothers market. Its popularity might have had more to do with the lightening of the Depression.

While the numbers are hazy, it appears that Dodge made around 71,000 of the three cars in the base Special line, and 114,460 for the seven cars in the Deluxe line (figures from The Standard Catalog of Chrysler). The Luxury Liner helped Dodge be America's fifth largest automaker for the year.

According to The Standard Catalog of Chrysler, two of the Deluxe cars had an extended chassis and 134 inch wheelbase (a seven-passenger sedan and limousine); but all Luxury Liners were longer and wider than the 1938 Dodges. They had a coil-spring independent front suspension, with dual tail-lights and steel disc wheels. The images below show the "town coupe", with a body by Hayes.

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The cars were lengthened again and restyled again for 1940, but that's a story for another day.

Here, we let Dodge writers continue with the story...

by the public relations mavens at Dodge

1939 was Dodge's twenty-fifth birthday. To fittingly celebrate its glorious Silver Anniversary, Dodge produced the finest car that ever bore the Dodge name. One glance at this most remarkable car and you are instantly captivated. You see new engineering, new style treatment, new beauty from bumper to bumper.

Each year Dodge designers and engineers have done their utmost to give you the finest, the safest, most economical, and most dependable car, for just a few dollars more than the lowest priced cars.

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Since 1914 more than four million Dodge cars have been produced and marketed. No car made today enjoys a finer reputation for Dependability than has been built up through these years by the hundreds of thousands of faithful, reliable Dodge cars that have been serving their owners unfailingly. Yet today in this new 1939 Dodge is not only new beauty, but new comfort, new safety, new economy with Dodge traditional Dependability woven right into the very warp and woof of the product.

In this remarkable chassis, there are many important improvements and advancements that are brand new yet unseen when viewing the car on the salesroom floor.

You will note this new Luxury Liner Dodge is a big car - longer from bumper, and wheelbase increased to 117". It is a sturdier car, more solidly built from end to end and from side to side and from top to bottom. It is the kind of a car everyone will like to own and the biggest package value ever offered.

1939 Dodge Luxury Liner: Tires and Wheels

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First, look at the new attractive side wall pattern of these big 600/16 airwheel tires. They enhance appearance, especially when the car is in motion. The tread has been improved to reduce tire noise to the minimum. Notice, too, these substantial wheels now have four slots for tire chain straps instead of just three and are equipped with the large and more attractive whorl type hub cap, with a dash of color in the center. This touch of color is in keeping with the smarter appearance of the whole car. The wheel rims are thicker, too, and more durable.

Dodge Frame

Next, let's look at the frame and foundation of this Luxury Liner Dodge. The side members are made deeper for greater strength. The X-members, too, have deeper channel sections increasing rigidity. The front cross member which holds the individual front wheel suspension has also been increased. Notice, please, the engines' front support mounted directly on the frame front cross member and that the rear of the engine is supported by a shorted and more rigid cross member. The gasoline tank is the welded type with capacity increased to 18 gallons.

Front Wheel Suspension

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The new individual motion front wheel suspension is the sturdiest most satisfactory type of wheel suspension we believe, offered on any car at any price. Each front wheel is free to move up and down over road obstructions without affecting the wheel on opposite side.

These big soft acting coil springs are made of anola steel, an entirely new metallurgical development. A new brand of safety razor blade is made of this same ANOLA STEEL. Get your free package from a Dodge salesman.

Luxury Liner Dodge Transmission Gears

Transmission gears are made of Anola steel which means that they, too, have greater strength, greater durability and the owner is less likely than ever to have trouble or expense with the transmission.

And this year the transmission case cover is made of cast iron which increases rigidity and reduces noise. And of course all transmission gears are helically cut to insure quiet operation in all speeds including reverse. Six high quality anti-friction bearings ensure long life and satisfactory operation of the transmission.


On the Deluxe model individual action front wheel springing together with the ride levelator - the bar you see here, keeps the car level - on an even keel even when rounding the sharpest curves.

And now before we go into the improvements that have been made in the great new Dodge Floating Power engine, let's go back through the chassis and study the other vital improvements that all prospective purchasers will want to know about.

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Gear Shift Control

An outstanding feature of the 1939 Luxury Liner Dodge is the new gear shift control. Not an accessory built on but a complete gear shift control built in.

The gear shift control lever is now located at the steering wheel within easy reach of the right hand. To shift gears, the procedure is practically the same as with the conventional type, the only difference being that the shifting lever is now in a horizontal position right at your finger tips instead of a vertical lever protruding from the floor. Only a moment required to become familiar with its operation. You shift gears with much less effort like this. (Demonstrate) Blocker type synchronizers make it easier to shift into second and high, without gear clashing.

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With the hand brake control relocated at the left under the instrument panel, there is now no straddling of levers for front seat passengers, the front compartment is now free of all obstructions with wider seat and plenty of leg room.


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The clutch, too, has been improved in many ways. The clutch housing is new with integral cast ribs for greater strength and rigidity. A new and lighter clutch driving disc tends to reduce spinning and facilitates gear shifting, particularly in low gear. Notice this new spring on the clutch pedal. It is called an over-center spring and helps to disengage the clutch as the pedal is being depressed at this point. Then when it goes over center it operates to facilitate return of the clutch pedal.

Clutch ventilation has also been improved by increasing the air exhaust outlets area in the clutch housing. The outside diameter of the clutch is 10 inches. A ball bearing clutch release [has] long life and it is prelubricated and requires no further lubrication or attention.

As in the past, Dodge uses roller bearings in the universal joints to reduce friction and wear.


Notice also that the propeller shaft runs in a more nearly straight line from the transmission to the rear axle. This has been brought about by reducing the engine angle in the frame together with changing the rear axle pinion angle.

Dodge continues to use the proved hypoid design of [the] rear axle gear. Improvements include strengthening the rear axle housing and relocating the spring pads on the rear axle housing to make a more nearly straight line drive through the universal joints.

The Dodge famous "Equal Pressure" hydraulic brakes have also been improved and simplified. Brake hose connections are shorter and connect directly to each front wheel cylinder. This reduces possible hose expansion and provides better brake pedal action.

Brake drums are new but still have cast iron braking surfaces, which as you know, is the ideal material for this purpose. The new drum construction provides cooling for severe operations yet they are just as efficient for light pedal pressures of ordinary driving. Brake facings provide a total brake area of 155½ square inches.

Steering Mechanism

Beside the improvements that have been made in riding comfort by adoption of the individual action front wheel springing, this new Luxury Liner Dodge is also much easier to handle due to important improvement in the steering mechanism.

In the first place the new steering gear is mounted in rubber to dampen out road noises and vibration. Individual steering tie rods from the steering gear arm to each wheel eliminate direct thrust or shock caused by the up and down movement of the wheels. Attaching the tie rods directly to the steering gear Pitman arm further simplifies steering gear construction and eliminates the drag link so that steering control is direct.

The steering gear ratio has been changed from 14.6 to 1 to 18.2 to 1. This provides much greater steering ease. The tie rod ball and socket ends have been improved and are protected from dirt and water by new type seals. The steering knuckle bushings are of long life bronze.

And now this brings us to the heart of this great new Dodge Luxury Liner, the amazing Floating Power six-cylinder L-head high compression engine.

Dodge Engine

There are several important improvement in the engine and we have been assured by Dodge engineers that this greatly improved power plant will give even more brilliant performance and what's still more important even greater efficiency than the Dodge engines which have made such enviable records during the past several years.

One of the principal reasons for the greater efficiency promised for this splendid power plant is the new Auto-Thermic pistons. They are plated, and have an improved steel strut which gives better control of expansion in the cylinders so that possibility of fuel or oil waste is still further reduced. The new pistons fit more closely in the cylinders and retain a close fit indefinitely. Also because of their lighter weight they reduce wear and lessen vibration.

[Editor's note: the base engine was a 218-cubic-inch L-head six, producing 87 gross horsepower at 3,600 rpm and 158 lb-ft of torque at 1,200 rpm. A smaller, 201 cubic inch engine on export models, which were basically rebranded Plymouths, producing 82 horsepower. The transmission was a selective-sliding manual with three forward speeds.

The cars weighed around 2,905 to 3,075 pounds - 3,440 to 3,545 pounds for the long wheelbase seven-passenger versions. Exports were around 2,850-3,000 lb. Prices ranged from $756 to $1,055 - except the seven-passenger cars, at $1,095 and $1,185.]

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